By Jay Holmes
During the last two years we in the United States have seen a rise in popular protest movements. In January of 2009, in response to a proposed “obesity tax” in New York State, Libertarians and fiscal conservatives organized a “Tea Party” style protest against rising taxes and the fiscal recklessness of the New York State government. Some of the protesters wore Native American style head gear and make up to emulate the actions of the original Tea Party participants in Boston in December of 1773.
image from partycrashertshirts.com
In more recent weeks, we have seen the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement and witnessed its near collapse. While I don’t support the acts of vandalism and other crimes committed by a small minority of the “occupy” protesters, I do sympathize with many of their concerns.
The outrageous financial scandals in recent years and the near total lack of prosecutions of the culprits have been disturbing to watch. The ensuing news announcements that taxpayer-funded bail out money has frequently been used to pay huge bonuses to the “leaders” of failed financial institutions have served to salt the wounds of taxpayers and defrauded investors.
Guileless and unlovable mouth pieces in the media shamelessly whore for each of the major political parties with less class than the employees in a third world house of ill repute. Their attempts to dismiss the Occupy participants as being either hooligans or well-disguised, hard-core supporters of their respective political parties are clumsy at best.
My guess is that the protestors are neither thugs nor political radicals. The American taxpayers have plenty to be genuinely angry about, and I support any peaceful protests. If elected officials are mildly concerned by the protests, then I say bravo! It’s high time these very comfortable congressmen and the self-worshiping ninnies in the White House felt a touch of discomfort. A comfortable government is a bad government.
Given the recent rise of popular protests, along with any unpopular ones, I thought it was time to review one of my favorite Tea Party Groups. With current events in mind let’s look at the events of 1773 in Boston Harbor.
In 1773, the British East India Company performed the miraculous feat of so badly mismanaging their government sponsored world trade monopoly that they found themselves in financial trouble. Modern readers, having witnessed the recent years of financial scandals in the Western world, will have no trouble understanding that such outlandish mismanagement is possible.
The East India Company found itself holding more tea then it could hope to sell. It reasoned that too much of someone else’s tea was being sold at lower prices to lowly peasant colonists. We can call those “someone else” folks “Dutch, French and American merchants.” The East India Company went to their pals in the British Parliament and quickly had a bill passed known as the “Tea Act.” Rather than bother with the details of the intentions and stated purposes, real and imagined, of the Tea Act, lets just recognize what the little people in the colonies thought of it.
From the point of view of those quaint but pitiful colonists across the Atlantic, the Tea Act taxed them as a particular group without taxing their cousins in England for the same tea. The colonists (a.k.a. the eighteenth century Occupy protesters) decided that they neither wanted nor would accept “taxation without representation.”
Three British ships loaded with the newly taxable tea made port in Boston in 1773. The locals—we can call them “Red Sox Fans”—wanted the ships returned to England unloaded. The Red Sox Fans assumed that the British ships would cast off and return to England, just as British tea ships had recently done in New York and Philadelphia.
Unfortunately for everyone concerned, the British head goon in Boston, Governor Thomas Hutchinson, had a financial interest in the distribution of British East India Company tea in New England. He ordered the ships to remain docked while he attempted to coerce the Red Sox Fans into doing what Yankees Fans in New York had already refused to do. Baseball fans will easily recognize the fundamental flaw in his strategy.
The Red Sox team would not be founded for another century, so lacking in proper Red Sox caps, the long-suffering, impatient Red Sox Fans, while waiting another century for opening day of the baseball season, dressed up as “Indians.” The Native Americans, not the baseball team. On the night of December 16, they overpowered the guards of the ships (actually they probably laughed together about it) and proceeded to dump the thousands of pounds of tea into the harbor.
Independence minded colonists did not miss the significance of what had happened. The King and his parliament—sort of like the White House and their Wall Street—didn’t think it was funny. They closed Boston Harbor to all trade and demanded full payment from the colonies. An accommodation would have been wiser, but the big-headed, small-minded English King George and his parliament were long on wind and short on reason. Instead of losing a few tons of surplus tea, they ended up signing a less favorable agreement at a place called Yorktown, Virginia on October 19, 1781 when General lord Cornwallis surrendered his army to an upstart Virginia plantation owner named George Washington. Adios, American colony!
It is never wise to ignore the legitimate concerns of a reasonable people. It is a thousand times less wise to ignore the angry rumblings of an always impatient and often fiercely independent people. I call those people Americans, and I do so proudly.
What do you think of the modern American protests?